'Relationship building can take years:' NGOs on engaging with DFID

The London offices of the U.K. Department for International Development at 22 Whitehall. Photo by: Civil Service Rainbow Alliance / CC BY

LONDON — In days gone by, if the U.K.’s development sector wanted a hearing from the government, it would have sent delegations to visit officials at Westminster or persuaded a sympathetic member of parliament to ask a question in the House of Commons.

This still happens of course, but times are changing, and nongovernmental organizations are finding new ways of engaging with government.

Last month, the NGO Sightsavers chose the banks of the River Thames as the home for an open-air exhibition about its A Million Miracles campaign. It remained there until the end of October, promoting a drive to fund one million operations to save and restore people’s sight in some of the poorest regions of the world.

The event was, above all, about promoting the charity’s work to a public audience — one million people are estimated to pass through this part of the South Bank every month. But it was also a chance for Sightsavers to engage the attention of DFID minister Lord Michael Bates, who joined them to open the exhibition.

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About the author

  • Russell hargrave

    Russell Hargrave

    Russell Hargrave is a writer and PR professional in London, with a special interest in issues covering global development, immigration and the EU. He has worked on communications in the UK charity sector for the last eight years, including spells at an NGO helping refugees, a national think tank, and a major grantmaker, and before that as an aide to his local Member of Parliament. He is the author of two research reports into public attitudes towards asylum seekers, as well as a chapter in the book Snappy Reading about the 2017 General Election. He has written for dozens of platforms including Reuters, The Tablet, The Guardian, and politics.co.uk.